The latest campaign contribution and expenditure figures for Congressional races reported by the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) are dated from the end of July 2010 for a report only through June 30, 2010. In an age of electronic and computer nimbleness when news can circulate the globe in a matter of seconds, campaign finance disclosure by candidates running for the US Senate and the House seem to be in the pre-telegraph era.
This antiquated campaign disclosure system hurts the democratic process by denying the public access to campaign spending and contribution information. It is an insult to the public and benefits special interests trying to obscure and cloud the impact money is having in Congressional races. The public has a right to know who is contributing to candidates and how much is being spent. The current system is a failure for timely disclosure.
And this is not even discussing the most recent insult – the unfettered and unrestricted flow of special interest and corporate dollars flowing into committees and organizations, including those that are filed with the IRS as 501-c-4 organizations that are not required to disclose their donors at all. This is all the result of the conservative faction put on the US Supreme Court which in their 5 to 4 decision of Citizens United vs the Federal Elections Commission ruled that money and free speech are one and the same.
Current reporting to the FEC by US Senate and House candidates is on a quarterly basis. Reports are due April 15, July 15, Oct 15, and Jan 31. There is an additional Pre-Primary and Pre-General Election report. The Pre-General Election report covers Oct 1 -13 and is due Oct 21.
Meanwhile amazingly, Presidential campaigns are required to report monthly as are Party organizations and PAC’s. Monthly reports are due on the 20th of the following month.
If you haven’t yet figured it out, its Congress who set the reporting requirements for Congress to only report quarterly. And a further delay is that while the House and Presidential campaigns file directly electronically with the FEC, the Senate adds additional delay in reporting by first requiring that a PAPER copy be filed with the US Senate which then forwards that to the FEC. Yes the word PAPER is correct. Talk about being behind the times.
Meanwhile here in Washington State reports for candidates are filed with our Public Disclosure Commission monthly, electronically and the deadline is the 10th of the following month. This includes races for statewide office like Governor which encompasses obviously the same geographical area as a US Senate race.
Two separate bills are before Congress to increase public disclosure that deserve public support. The first is a perennial bill to require Senate candidates to file electronic copies of their reports. This is Russ Feingold’s bill, the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act. He notes it would save taxpayers $250,000. As Feingold states,
Under the current paper filing system, the FEC’s detailed coding, which allows for more sophisticated searches and analysis, is completed over a week later for Senate reports than for House reports. This means that the final disclosure reports covering contributions made during the first two weeks of October are often not subject to detailed scrutiny before the election. Detailed campaign expenditure information is never available electronically because the FEC does not enter that information into its databases.
Help urge the US Senate to join the electronic computer era. Send an e-mail to your Senators urging they join the digital revolution in reporting campaign contributions. Click on the link to email Washington State’s Senators:
Senator Maria Cantwell
Senator Patty Murray
To e-mail Senators in other states go to the US Senate website.
The other legislation that Republicans have blocked to date is the DISCLOSE Bill. As noted in a citizen co-sponsor website at http://www.discloseact.com/
The DISCLOSE Act legislation will address seven major points:
1. Enhance Disclaimers
Make CEOs and other leaders take responsibility for their ads.
2. Enhance Disclosures
It is time to follow the money.
3. Prevent Foreign Influence
Foreign countries and entities should not be determining the outcome of our elections.
4. Shareholder/Member Disclosure
We should allow shareholders and members to know where money goes.
5. Prevent Government Contractors from Spending
Taxpayer money should not be spent on political ads.
6. Provide the Lowest Unit Rate for Candidates and Parties
Special interests should not drown out the voices of the people.
7. Tighten Coordination Rules
Corporations should not be able to “sponsor” a candidate
Please also urge your Senatore to pass this bill. The House has already done so.
For previous discussion of these issues see also:
US Senators Still Trying to Figure out Computers and Internet
Republicans in US Senate Stop Campaign Disclosure Bill